HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — Before we let the Clippers slip away into the shadows of teams vanquished on the road to the Larry O’Brien trophy, we have to slather a little praise on the “other” team in Los Angeles for a season full of entertaining basketball, complete with enough Chris Paul and Blake Griffin highlights to last a couple of seasons.
We’d also like to back the critics off of Griffin and his game, which is a whopping 159 games old with this playoff run included. That’s right, Griffin is just two seasons of actual on-court time into his career that has been scrutinized incessantly since he burst onto the scene as dunking machine/pitchman last season.
I saw the Inside crew discussing Griffin’s game (Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaq and Ernie Johnson go at it above) and felt the instant analysis of his long-term prospects was a bit premature. Shaq and Ernie have it right that it’s far too soon to assume we’ve seen the very best Griffin will have to offer during his career.
(Andrew Bynum‘s been in the league for seven years and people are still talking about him being a young player … and this is supposed to be it for Griffin?)
This was Griffin’s first playoff rodeo folks. Why would anyone assume he’s reached his zenith, that he won’t continue to improve in the coming seasons?
This assumption that he’s just a “dunker” and will never be anything more is beyond preposterous. Sure, he has plenty of work to do on his overall game, and particularly his post moves, outside shooting and attention to detail on the defensive end. But what player in his second season doesn’t?
Griffin’s critics, and there are many, are completely off base in their initial assessment of a guy who has played on a tender knee since late in their first-round series against the Grizzlies. And he was facing a Spurs team that exposes each and every one of your weaknesses in the conference semifinals. He still managed 21.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals against the team many believe to be the best in basketball right now.
Those numbers don’t match up to his regular-season standards anywhere but in points, but again, this is his first taste of postseason action.
Griffin is being held to a ridiculously high standard right now, based solely on the fact that a player with seemingly superhuman athleticism (and the hype that usually comes along with it) somehow has to do more faster than the average man. Well, we’re not playing that game here. Griffin’s game will grow in time. Paul sticking around long-term will certainly aid that cause.
But he’ll never be able to even meet the immense expectations some have set for him, let alone exceed them. Like others in his generation, Griffin has already become a prisoner of his own hype (the bulk of it generated beyond his control).
Yet to assume he won’t work tirelessly to do exactly that, to meet and exceed the expectations he has for himself as well as the external expectations, is selling Griffin short.
And we’re not ready to do that around here. Not even close!